On 26th of February the Student Panel met to hear from academics and discuss tobacco and its effects. The Panel was comprised of students ranging from Year 11 (like myself and fellow JFS School members) to Year 13 with the vast majority sharing a strong interest in biology and many considering pursuing this, medicine or related sciences as a future career option. The attending schools were JFS School, Harris Academy, Burntwood Academy and Graveney School.
Upon arrival, we were briefed by Dr MacBean regarding the agenda for the day and the future opportunities for the panel members including database updating, summarising published researches and many other forms of work experience. The Panel was subsequently introduced to the visiting academics.
Miss Claire Pringle, working in the Department of Health & Social care told us about the various means used to cut down on the number of peoples starting to consume tobacco. It was particularly interesting to find out that the new green packaging of cigarettes has come as a result of market research used to find that the colour is the least appealing as well as, looking into the difficulties that arise when deterring young people from starting smoking through educating them without patronising them.
With Dr Peter Cho, we focussed on the physiological effects of tobacco on the body especially looking at tar and nicotine and considering how they affect people’s body function such as, by raising blood pressure which increases the risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks. It was intriguing to discover that the harmful effects of tobacco, in terms of causing cancer, were first noticed when researchers compared the list of doctors that smoked and the list of those that developed cancer and spotted a clear correlation.
The topic of medically imaging the effects of tobacco was looked at with Miss Hannah Perry and the mechanisms behind the 3 main imaging methods (CT, PET and MRI) being the main focus of conversation. I found the fact that usually, a radioactive fluorine isotope, is attached to glucose molecules fascinating as a large amount of the glucose goes to the tumour to provide energy for its rapid cell division. The fact that MRI imaging can be used to locate tumours because the fast growth does not allow the tumour to be properly connected to the lymphatic system, which draws away water, was also interesting.
Finally, with Dr Alexis Cullen we looked at understanding the connection between smoking and psychosis and considered the nature of the relationship: does smoking affect the brain by physically cause the development of this mental illness? Or is there some confounding factor which has a link to smoking and a link to psychosis but no direct causational relationship? This along with thinking about some of the ethical concerns involved with research regarding this connection were all ideas discussed.
Overall, the day was filled to the brim with information, questions and answers with some very interesting academics and it is certain that the entire Panel learnt plenty.
Gilad Fibeesh, Year 11, JFS School, Harrow